About laurenhailey

My name is Hailey Napper and I love the outdoors,  in particular trail running and mountain bike riding. I have worked in the health & fitness industry since 2013 and my passion is helping people achieve their goals.

Knapsack Lap Race – by Running Wild NSW

This Australia Day we headed out to the Knapsack Lap Race at in Glenbrook. The 5km course was challenging and fast, some really good little inclines to get the heart pumping but nothing too big. Roger and I were doing this as part of the mixed teams and our plan was to take turns and alternate each lap.

We caught up with our good mates Jo and Ben and headed over to the start line where I would run a lap of the oval and then onto the first loop.

I was super excited to be back out running again in the Blue Mountains and probably finished my first lap a little too fast. The trail was all single track, just the way I like it, and I managed to run 100% of most of my loops, no breaks to walk.

After each lap I would take a rest in the chair and eat about 4 x Zooper Doopers to help cool myself down and also a bit of food for energy. The temperatures were really starting to soar, over 40 degrees celsius.

Roger enjoyed his laps and we both came back sweating up a storm. It felt like 50 degrees out there!! We both kept pushing the pace, we say we’re not competitive but I think deep down we do like to test the limits.

Eventually the Running Wild team decided to cut the event short due to the heat, so instead of running for 6 hours we would now only run for 5 hours. They made this decision just as Roger had already left for his next lap.

Afterwards we caught up with Mark and Mark who I think won the mens team event, and they enjoyed a few ‘Goat’ beers to celebrate.

Despite the race being cut short and the weather I thoroughly enjoyed this event and would recommend it to anyone looking for a short, swap fast course with all runnable sections.

Happy running!

Summer Holidays

How could we say ‘no’ to a week in the Snowy Mountains during summer? The answer is that “you can’t”. And with that in mind we had early Christmas celebrations with both of our families, packed up the car, threw the mountain bikes on the roof and hit the road.

We arrived in Perisher on a Saturday late in the evening, and drove around trying to find the Cooma Ski Lodge. Google had pin pointed it’s location but we couldn’t see a building in that spot. We drove up and down the street and I happened to see a light turn on in the spot were the lodge was supposed to be, it must have been hidden from the road. We rounded the bend and drove up the driveway, there it was!

After some hugs with our friends, and a quick unpack of the car, we settled down for a quiet drop of red. Although, we were all quite tired and headed for bed pretty soon after. There would be lots of time to catch up during the week.

On Sunday when we finally dragged ourselves out of bed we headed for the shops at Jindabyne to load up on supplies for the week. And of course to grab a (real) coffee and breakfast. We eventually got back to the lodge at midday and thought it was time for lunch, of course. After lunch we checked out some local maps and decided to go for a ride towards the Snowy Hydro plant. The ride would be about 20km out and back with quite a few hills, and boy where there some hills!

On Monday we organised to meet our friends at 9 am at Thredbo so we could then join them for the final section of their ride to Lake Crackenback. We got their early and found a cafe for another (real) coffee. Our friends met us at the Cafe and we were soon on our way down the trails along the Snowy River. This ride was beautiful and not too much hard work at all, we had fun flying down the hills, round the bends and cranking those pedals up the small dirt hills. Unfortunately for Roger he broke his chain about 5km into the ride, but trusty Alina had a spare in her kit and we were soon back riding again. We had been back riding again for bout 3km when Roger got a flat tyre, not his luckiest day. But it did make for some bear hugs, huge laughs and seeing way too much of Tom’s ass (ha, ha). The scenery was beautiful and we eventually arrived at Lake Crackenback to meet the rest of the crew. We scoffed down pies and ginger beer and BobPa, our honorary chauffeur for the week (also Alina’s Dad), gave us a lift back to our car in Thredbo. Pablo also came along for the trip, as we had decided to run/walk back to Charlottes Pass, and he was going to drive our car back to the Ski Lodge for us.

After a quick change of clothing at Thredo and filling up our hydration packs with water and food, we were soon on our way up the hilly slope that is Thredbo. Pablo joined us for this first section and it was bloody hard work. Pablo made it look easy, while I trudged up at a slow, consistent pace leaning on my poles a lot. I kept stopping to look back and enjoy the view and it was such a gorgeous day. We somehow lost the trail a few times but we just kept heading towards the top and eventually used one of the MTB Trails to make our way to the main building, that way we could reconnect with the trail to Mount Kosciuszko. Pablo had already headed back down the hill to the car at this point, but we kept hiking and moving as fast as our tired legs would let us. I felt great. We passed lots of families and groups of walkers and even a few campers, an eventually we got the highest point of Australia, Mount Kosciuszko. Surprisingly there was only a family of 4 at the top, much quieter than any other time I had visited Kosci, well…. aside from with a runner at the wee hours of night/morning at the Coast2Kosci race. We got some food in, took some photos and it was really windy so we didn’t stay long. Roger and I cruised back down towards Charlotte’s Pass, passing Seaman’s Hut and down towards the Snowy River. It was mostly downhill, but we walked some and ran some, using people in front of us to catch (we’re not competitive at all). At Charlotte’s we messaged Pablo to come and pick us up but got no response, so we messaged BobPa who was more than happy to come and collect us to talked us back to the lodge. We were pooped, but slowly made our way walking back down the hill and, in what felt like no time at all, BobPa appeared and picked up our smelly, weary bodies. What a great day!

On Tuesday we had another sleep in and then decided to drive to Thredbo and hit the Dead Horse Gap Trail. This Trail starts at the top of Thredbo, runs across the mountain and then back down towards the river. At the bottom it follows the river back towards the main part of Thredbo. We did not hike up to the Thredbo today, we decided to take the Chairlift, much easier, and we also decided to stop for a quiet snack at the Eagleview Hotel to fuel for our 10km run/hike (ha, ha). We had hot chips and ginger beer, so good. Eventually we got moving and headed towards the trail, it was another beautiful day, a sky full of blue and flowers covering the sides of the trail. The views were amazing as we winded back down the mountain, passing only a few other hikers that day. Lots of dead trees, a bit of mud and quite a few rock stairs. We got the bottom easily and I could feel some rumblings in my tummy (oh, no!), but thought I’d be okay to make it the rest of the way to Thredbo. The trail was winding along beside the Snowy River at the bottom, and was absolutely beautiful. We rolled along walking and running, taking in the scenery and how lucky we were to be there. As we got closer to Thredbo my stomach churned more and more, I eventually had to leave Roger behind and make a run for the toilet in Thredbo, and I made it jut in time. To much information? ha ha

Wednesday we had organised to do a group hike with Alina, Tom, Archie (with a broken arm), and Pablo. So we set out for a 20km walk from Charlotte’s Pass past the Lakes walk, up onto Mt Kosciuszko and back down to finish at Thredbo. It was a beautiful day and I wished it could have lasted forever…. well, that is until poor Roger took a nasty stack on the metal grid pavement as we approached the top of Thredbo. An x-ray taken at the bottom of the slope (courtesy of the MTB park medical team) showed that he had broken his pinky finger, ouch!).

On Thursday we had a rest day and Roger visited the Doctor in Jindabyne to get his fingers, hands and legs checked after his big fall the day before. The doctor thought he might need surgery for his finger, but for now we just had to tape it in a splint-like form attached it to the finger next to it and rest.

Thursday night we were all chatting over dinner and we decided that a few of us would do a 50km MTB, getting up at the crack of dawn and ending up at Lake Crackenback. So we set our alarms early and headed off to bed for a good sleep.

The alarm went off early on Friday morning and I got myself ready for our day out. I kissed Roger goodbye and we headed out to greet the sunrise. It was another magical day and spent in the best of company, thanks Al.

Our last day of holidays was spent cleaning and packing up ready to go home. One by one we all headed out the door leaving the good times and great friends until our next adventure.

What a great summer!!

Reinventing your Resolutions

New Year’s Resolutions…. we make them every year, and some get done while others get forgotten, even when we have the best intentions. This year instead, I have a different plan and it’s one that feels more valuable than any of my whimsy ‘resolutions’ of the past. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve achieved a lot of my resolutions in the past, but some of the smaller day-to-day tasks/hobbies that I love, often get pushed aside. We all get busy with everyday life, and time seems to escape us, but I don’t want to wake up in 20 years and regret not doing the small things that make me happy every day.

Yesterday I sat down and wrote two lists – firstly a list of my values, the ‘what’ is important to me. For those of you playing at home, write down a list of your own hobbies and interests, the things you’re passionate about that make you happy everyday. Here are some examples of the items on my ‘Values’ list, these are:

  • Read more books, at least 1 per month
  • Meditate 2-3 times/week, 5-10 mins each
  • Yoga 2-3 times/week, at least 30 mins each

Next, I wrote a list of the ‘who’ is important to me, so go ahead and write down your own list of the people you want to spend more time with in 2019. I went another step and wrote down the ‘when’ and ‘how’ I would connect with them, some were easier than others because they live near me and I can call/drop in anytime, others who are further away will take some planning, but people are only ever a phone call away too.

Read back through your list, add anything or anyone that you missed. You now need to set an action plan for the ‘Values’ on your list, so go ahead and put them into your diary, electronic calculator, or sign up for that course, class or training group. Without this action it will not happen, so do not skip this step because it’s the most important.

And your last fun task is to get in contact with the people on your second list. You don’t have to contact them all at once, but over the next few weeks start going through the names and give them a phone call, email, message. If you can organise a time to see them too then great!

Another important step is to revisit your lists throughout the year, this way you make sure that you don’t miss anything or anyone, as we know things get forgotten and slip off the radar. Perhaps that’s once a month, or once a quarter. You can also add to your list throughout the year, it’s entirely up to you so make it what you want.

I hope this helps you live a happier, healthier and more positive year doing what you love with the people you love. Let the lists change and evolve over time, and even roll over into the many years to come.

Wishing you all the best for 2019 and beyond.

Pinters 2018

For years now, I have dreamed of completing the Larapinta Trail in the Outback of Northern Territory in Australia. So when our good friend Jane invited us to join her on a 6 day trail running adventure on Larapinta, we jumped at the chance!

The trip was scheduled to take place in September 2018, so that meant I had 11 months to prepare for my first ever multi-day running adventure. If you look online and in most books about the Larapinta Trail it will tell you the ‘end-to-end’ distance is 226km, however the distance we ended up running was quite a lot more. It would take some improved fitness and strength work to prevent any injury troubles. I felt nervous, excited and scared all at once.

As time went on and training continued, I got stronger and I felt more comfortable with the distances and terrain we would encounter on the trip. However, just 2 weeks before our departure I was forced into an early taper due to laryngitis and a chest infection. I took 2 courses of antibiotics and rested as much as possible, because there was no way I was going to let illness stop me.

The night before our flight to Alice Springs we spent in a mad panic trying to pack our bags with only the essential items needed for the trip. We had picked up our allocated travel bags a few weeks beforehand, and Jane told us we were not allowed to bring more than what we could fit into the bag. At the time this had made me nervous as my sleeping mat and sleeping bag were going to take up a lot of space, and my nerves had not been wrong. But the reason we had to pack light was because our support vehicle did not have a lot of space to store extra baggage. We got there in the end and looking back, I know there are a few more things I could have taken out of my bag.

On Thursday 20 September we met up with most of the ‘Pinters 2018’ runners at the Qantas Lounge in Sydney Airport, and flew to Alice Springs with an arrival time of 12.20pm.

As we walked off the plane and across the tarmac I noticed the one and only Robert De Castella (Deeks) had also been on our plane, flying with a few of the Indigenous Marathon Project Runners. We were all totally star struck but none of us had the courage to go up and ask for a photo/autograph, most likely as he had his phone stuck to his ear the whole time while we were waiting for our bags.

Tony our bus driver met us at the baggage claim area, and we jumped on the bus headed towards Redbank Gorge. It would take a few hours to drive to the starting point, and we made one stop on the way to drop off a few bags at the Resort we would be staying in after the trip. Tony was a great tour guide, he told me a lot about the Alice Springs area and how he had moved to the area with his wife when she got a nursing job many years ago. When he wasn’t our bus driver, he worked as a taxi cab in the town part time and was semi-retired.

When we got to Redbank Camping Area we met our wonderful crew, Janet and Gary. They arrived a few hours before us and had already set up camp for our first night on the trail. We immediately liked Janet and Gary for their great sense of humour, and over the next few days grew to love them for their unwavering care and support for us all out on the trail.

Our team grabbed their bags and we each setup our tents for the night, then met back at the main tent ready for our run (hike) up to Mt Sonder. The trail to Mt Sonder and back is approximately 15.8km with an elevation gain of 603m, so it wasn’t going to be too tough. We were all a bundle of excitement and nerves, some of us had not seen each other for a while and some of us had just met. We crossed the riverbed which had no water in it (and looked like it hadn’t had water in it for a very long time, years!) and I pretended to swim while lying on the sand and doing my best freestyle swimming impersonation. We chatted and hiked, complaining a little about the grey skies blocking our view of the landscape. We started up the final steep ascent but we didn’t end up getting to the top because we were running out of light, and had to turn back early because some people did not have their head torches.

When we got back into camp our delicious creamy pasta dinner was waiting for us and we all scoffed it down with a few beers, then headed to bed for an early night. Some of the runners had organised to get up super early for the first day, but Roger and I decided to have a bit of a sleep in (if possible) and get up and leave whenever our bodies were ready. This was a ‘holiday’ after all and we had both been recovering from illness, so we wanted to start the trip feeling well rested.

 

Day 1 – Redbank Gorge to Ormiston Gorge

Distance: 38.27km

Elevation: 851m

Running Time: 6 hrs 25mins (Moving: 5hrs 56mins)

 We woke to rumblings of runners having breakfast and gearing up for the trail. The grey clouds still covered the sky for as far as I could see, and the air felt quite cool on my skin. Getting ready took us longer than everyone else as we hadn’t prepared our packs the nights before, so we waved them off and told them we would catch-up. Eventually we got our shit together and left the campsite, thanking Janet and Gary for the superb breakfast.

We hiked roughly 2km from the campground to Redbank Gorge Trailhead and followed the signs directing us to Ormiston Gorge. Today’s plan was to run 36km and even though the clouds threatened rain all day, it never amounted to more than a sprinkle. I did have my rainproof jacket on and off several times through the day, but we ran so much that I was able to keep warm and the jacket never stayed on for long.

When we were about 10km from our destination we ran into the rest of our group who had stopped to have morning tea. We all ran into the Gorge together and eventually found our campsite, the area had been fully booked so there were lots of people (mostly RVs and 4WDs) and we had a toilet block (no showers) which was nicer than heading into the bush at night.

After a short pit stop and changing into some warm clothes, we all headed down to the Gorge as it was just a short walk. It was a very pretty place, and Sarah and I decided to dip in our legs to help them recover from the first day.

We chatted over dinner about what was planned for the next day, and we realised that last time they had done this trip it was over 7 days (not 6 days like we were planning) and I got confused about where we were camping etc. Gary and Jane seemed to be all over it though, so I didn’t worry too much as I knew we were in capable hands.

 

Day 2 – Ormiston Gorge to Serpentine Chalet Dam

Distance: 40.2km

Elevation: 1,185m

Running Time: 8hrs 44mins (Moving Time: 7hrs 52mins)

We set our alarm and got up super early however the main group left even earlier, and they didn’t wait for us. We left before sunrise and chose to add the Pound walk circuit, a side trip that added about 8km of beautiful trails. We were rewarded with a breath-taking sunrise, and we giggled like school kids as we skipped along the trail taking in the mountains and brown plains surrounding us.

We got back to Ormiston Gorge, used the toilet facilities and then headed along the trail towards Serpentine Chalet Dam. Today’s plan had us running 31km, on top of the 8km we had already just run. The start of the trail followed along beside an old creek bed, which had clearly been dry for many years. Eventually the trail snaked along and into the bush, everything looked dry and I felt like I was breathing in a lot of dust. We crossed many creek beds, all of them dry, and I was very happy to see blue skies and sunshine.

When we arrived at the last trailhead for the day, Adam was there to greet us and walk with us to the campground. He made a joke that we were doing 60km tomorrow and I laughed it off, they would never spring that on us. We walked and talked some more and eventually got to the campsite where it was just our crew. Nice and peaceful. We took off our packs and sat down for some cold drinks and heard about everyone’s experiences for the day.

Jane also informed us that tomorrow we would need to run 60km. Ummmm, what?! Someone had got their calculations wrong and that meant we had to make up a day. Shit. Apparently, the plan was for our support crew to meet us at the halfway point the next day so we could fill up on food and water before continuing on for the rest of the trail. My heart sank. I wanted to cry. I was so tired, I had to fight back tears or I’d look like a wimp. I quietly spoke to Roger saying that I didn’t think it was a good idea. I had not trained for this and wasn’t sure if it would trigger issues with my foot and/or knee doing this kind of distance in one day, on top of everything else.

The crew tried to reassure me that if I could not make the whole distance I could pull out at halfway, however I would never forgive myself for missing a section of the trail. It would mean that everything I had run so far would be wasted, as I would want to come back and start again, doing the whole trail end to end like we originally planned. Otherwise it would not count. I told myself and the crew I’d sleep on it and decide in the morning, but before my head hit the pillow that night, I’d already decided to give to 60km a crack.

 

Day 3 – Serpentine Chalet Dam to Hugh Gorge

Distance: 58.5km

Elevation: 1,751m

Running Time: 13hrs 9mins (Moving Time: 11hrs 51mins)

We got up super early and left before the sunrise, Sarah had decided to run with us today and we welcomed her company. She was planning on running to the halfway point and knew we would be taking it easy, and we loved having her along for the ride.

Our head torches lit up the trail for the first hour or so, and we were treated to some  beautiful sunrise views from Counts Point, the highest point on the course that morning. The colour in the sky changed every minute and we soaked up the views feeling lucky to be alive.

The next section involved a lot of rock climbing, scrambling and we saw quite a few lizards just before we got to Ellery Creek. It had some really steep, rocky sections and the going was a little tough, I was glad to be wearing my bicycle gloves.

We met up with Janet & Garry at Ellery creek and refuelled our packs. We chugged down some Coke and food, and after a short trip to the creek (and the bathrooms) we were on our way again. Sarah had decided to stop at Ellery Creek, so we said our goodbyes and Roger and I headed for Hugh Gorge.

Our trail headed up over a saddle into a large expanse of nothingness, a very flat area with nothing to see for miles and miles. It looked dry, prickly and as if the trail was going to chew me up and spit me back out. We followed the trail signs and went past Rocky Gully, we also stopped at a campground to fill up on water as the sun had been scorching us all day, it must have been at least 35 degrees with no shade on the trail.

I took a total of 3 photos on this section, a sign that I did not enjoy myself.  I hit my lowest point of the whole trip and to be honest, I battled tears the whole day. I felt like a total wimp. Everything hurt, and I wanted to quit so many times, but there was literally no way out of here. A huge basin of nothingness, it kept challenging me and grinding me in its teeth. Roger was so good to me, he put up with me whingeing and moaning all day and kept me moving when I wanted to stop. We put on some tunes to keep ourselves entertained and it helped to lift my mood. When we got nearer to the end I started using the km markers to count down and keep me busy. It did not work, and I kept forgetting which number we went past last, so I annoyed Roger a thousand times by asking him “What marker did we just pass?”. There were so many rocks and more rocks, and bloody rocks. The surface we ran on for most of the afternoon was rocks, very hard on the feet unlike soft trails. It hurt.

After what felt like an eternity of rocks, and some badly numbered markers we eventually arrived at Hugh Gorge and were greeted with some lovely rock drawings from our crew (too rude to show here!). The sun was just setting behind the mountains and I said, “Thank fuck we made it” (sorry Mum). I was exhausted and amazed to have made it in one piece. I felt like I had been a big sook for most of the day, but I had made it and technically I had run my first ‘ultra’ since injury (18+ months). We celebrated with some beers and scoffed down our dinner while chatting about how everyone’s day had gone. It had been the hottest yet and we were all exhausted, so we all headed off to bed early that night.

 

Day 4 – Hugh Gorge to Standley Chasm

Distance: 35.7km

Elevation: 1,390m

Running Time: 10hrs 24mins (Moving Time: 8hrs 18mins)

I slept very well the night before, probably due to exhaustion. I woke like most day, to noises of runners getting ready for their day on the trails. We had not set an alarm as we decided to sleep till our bodies were ready to get up, after all it would only be 35km today (ha, ha). Slowly we got moving and prepared our packs, had breakfast and said farewell to Janet & Garry.

Today we followed many old river beds and creeks, winding round and round, over more rocks and more rocks. We saw cows on the trail and they ran away, they seemed to be quite scared by our presence. Other than birds and a lizard, these were the first animals we had seen out here in the wild. Where were all the kangaroos and koalas? It was probably due to the lack of water out here, it would be very hard to survive. We followed a wide creek for a few kilometres and it was scattered with hundreds of cows’ dung, clearly, they had found food and water in this area, the place was littered, and it stunk!!

We climbed up to Rocky Saddle and eventually hit Razorback Ridge where the views were stunning. There was a tent setup on the top of the Ridge, but we couldn’t spot any hikers. We stopped and had some lunch and a pit stop and kept moving on our way. It was a gorgeous day to be up here taking in the view.

At Spencer Gorge we bumped into Sarah and Sarah-Jane who were resting in the shelter. Sarah-Jane was not feeling well and had decided to stop and rest, Sarah had stayed with her as she didn’t really want her to be alone. The rest of their crew had gone ahead to keep moving, and they were going to contact Janet & Garry who would come and pick them up from a nearby road. We had some snacks with them and welcomed the shade as it was another very hot day.

Soon we were on our way again and headed for Brinkley Bluff, another of the high points along the course and the views did not disappoint. Then we hit Reveal Saddle which also had some great views, and eventually we climbed back down and ran into Standley Chasm.

The crew cheered us into the campsite and there was even a hot shower, we were very excited as we had not showered in 4 days! Unfortunately, we had missed the shop opening times, but Garry surprised us with some ice creams after dinner and we were all super stoked. Small pleasures, big smiles.

 

Day 5 – Standley Chasm to Simpsons Gap

Distance: 43.7km

Elevation: 1,261m

Running Time: 10hrs 28mins (Moving Time: 8hrs 40mins)

I had very broken sleep at Standley Chasm, so I woke up feeling very tired. A dog had barked on and off throughout the night and because there were other campers it was not as quiet as it had been most nights.

Roger and I were slow to get ready (as usual) and we walked out towards the trail while chomping on banana bread, which had become my favourite snack each morning. Our first stop was about 400m along the trail at the actual ‘Standley Chasm’ as it had been too dark when we arrived the night before. We took some photos and then a few of the others turned up and we took some silly photos with them too.

As we waved goodbye to the crew that were taking a rest day, we started up some stairs along the trail towards Simpsons Gap, we had a few climbs this morning and it was going to be another tough day. As we walked through the Chasm it was amazing to see how they trees seemed to be growing out of the rocks, I don’t know how they survived up here. Somehow, we managed to take a wrong turn but thankfully we realised before we had gone too far and soon we were back on the right track. A large sign was across the trail warning us that the next section was not for ‘Casual Walkers’ and that there was now only 60km till Alice Springs.

It was a very steep climb out of the chasm and there were lots of birds chirping as we got higher and higher. Then the trail became very, very, very, very slow moving as we had to climb and clamber over rocks of all different sizes. Some of the rocks we had to climb over were bigger than my 4WD car. I imagined that the area we were climbing through would have had waterfalls and rapids running down through them years and years ago, but they had obviously dried up many hundreds of years ago. It seemed the climbing would never stop, and it meant zero running.

Jane had told us about a low route option she would be taking, the high route was the same distance, but it had a lot more elevation and my guidebook said it would take an hour longer. Roger and I decided we wanted to take the risk of the high route and experience the views, and we were not disappointed. The trail was not as scary as we had been made to believe, much to my relief, and we ended up having a morning tea break here to take in the serenity.

We kept hiking/running along the trail and I took another wrong turn. It was a good thing we had the maps in our watches, as we used them so many times to make sure we were on the right trail.

Eventually we got to Simpsons Gap and Garry was waiting for us, he had been a little worried because we had taken a bit longer than he expected. I thought we had made it in pretty good time, but we had been slowed a lot by doing the high section. He gave us icy cold soft drinks that were heaven, and then drove us back to Alice Springs where we were all camping at a busy caravan park before our last day on the trail.

When we got to the caravan park it felt strange to be amongst so many people and so much noise, I missed the peacefulness of the campsites we had experienced each night beforehand. Our whole crew celebrated how far we had all come and planned the car pool for the next morning to get back onto the trail.

 

Day 6 – Simpsons Gap to Telegraph Station

Distance: 25.2km

Elevation: 696m

Running Time: 4hrs 38mins (Moving Time: 4hrs 21mins)

Roger and I were very organised for our last morning on the trail. We had prepared our packs the night before and basically just had to eat, get a lift, then run the 25km to the finish. As we waited for Garry to come back and pick us up we fed some local birds that had gathered to eat our scraps, it was a great experience.

Today we got to run with Sarah again and we sang lots as we trotted along the trails on our last day. I felt sad to be finishing, but happy to have made it so far. It was a strange feeling that made me think about planning more trips like this one, something I would have to look into when I got home. We ran quite a lot of the trail today, over a long ridge, under the main road, over the train tracks. Like my feelings the night before I was finding it strange to be back around cars and civilisation, like I was craving to be back in the middle of nowhere.

We caught up to the rest of our crew near the old cemetery and walked together to the end of the trail. We finally saw some kangaroos on the last kilometre of the trail and we were all so happy when we reached the Telegraph Station. We had done it.

I was extremely happy to have run every single, goddamned day, and that I had not given up on myself even when I had been thrown many obstacles. I had many ups and downs, some physical and some mental, but my body had stayed strong. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to have run this trail and the amazing support that we had from Garry & Janet, we could not have done this without them. Many thanks to Jane for organising such a memorable run, and to Roger for putting up with me every, single, day – he has a heart of gold.

It was a wonderful trip with mates that I will never forget. I know it will definitely not be my last….

For those of you interested in what we took/packed for the week here’s my packing list.

PACKING LIST

  • Sleeping Bag
  • Sleeping Mat
  • Blow up Pillow
  • Ugg Boots
  • Thongs
  • Trail Shoes x 2
  • Head torches x 2 (+ chargers/batteries)
  • Puffy Jacket
  • Space Blanket
  • Toiletries/Wet Wipes
  • Thermal Top
  • Thermal Pants
  • Buffs x 4
  • Gloves – Woolen & Trail
  • Microfibre Towel (compact)
  • Beanie
  • Sunglasses
  • Visor/Hat
  • Socks x 4
  • Running Shirts x 3
  • Running shorts x 2
  • Running skirt x 3
  • Sports Bras x 3
  • Undies x 6
  • Waterproof Jacket
  • Long sleeve top
  • Fleece jumper
  • Track pants
  • Hydration Backpack
  • Soft Flasks x 2
  • Hiking Poles
  • Sunscreen
  • Gurney Goo (for blisters)

The Comeback: Beaches Unsupported Marathon Series (BUMS)

“My legs felt strong, my lungs felt clear, and as I looked around to take in the stunning water views I started to wonder if I’d missed one of the chalk arrows keeping me on course.  I looked ahead to try and spot Jane and the crew who I’d been running with earlier, but they were nowhere to be seen.”
Mental Note: Don’t forget to keep an eye out for chalk markings on the road or you’re going to get lost Hailey.

A couple of weeks ago I ran my first marathon in over 2 years. Why so long between races? In late 2016 I tore my plantar fasciia in my left foot. Initially it was diagnosed as Plantar Fasciitis which is treatable, so I’d kept running on my foot thinking it would get better. After starting the 2016 Coast2Kosci Ultra Marathon I got to 110km before the race organisers pulled me aside and made the tough decision to cut me from the race. They knew my pace had slowed during the day and it was certain that I wasn’t going to make the next checkpoint in time for the cut-off. They didn’t want to see me struggle through the night only to miss out, and I’ll be forever grateful they stopped me when they did or my injury could have been made a lot worse. After the race I took a break from running for almost 2 months and when I finally took myself out for a run I had instant pain. After an MRI and several doctor visits I was put into a cam boot for 5 1/2 months and since then I have had a long, steady recovery, ensuring that I don’t cause any further damage and pain. To say it’s been difficult is an understatement, but there are worse things in life and I’m lucky to have some wonderful, supportive people around me.

When the boot finally came off in June 2017, I made a conscious decision to not sign up for any races until I knew I was well and truly recovered. This meant there was no pressure on me to run a certain amount of time or km’s each week leading up to an event. I did have several bouts of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) over the months, especially after 2 European trips in mid 2017 to crew at races (Andorra Ultra Trail and Tor des Geants). During rehab an old knee injury flared up and I decided to take up mountain bike riding as cross training to lessen the impact on my joints.  I joined the Helensburgh Off Road Cycle Club (HORCC) and really loved seeing the trails from another perspective. I also used a wind-trainer with Zwift at home during the winter months to help keep up my fitness, and I found these sessions quite fun.

After getting a late entry into the UTA22 event in May 2018, I planned to use this as my ‘come-back race’ to get the ball rolling again. However the universe had other plans, and the night before the race I came down with a temperature and illness which had me bed-ridden. But all was not lost. In October 2017 a friend got in touch about a multi-day running trip she was planning for late 2018 and I had jumped at the chance. I knew I wasn’t ready for that kind of distance when I accepted the invite, but I had plenty of time to get myself fit and ready.

I kept riding and running, and in early 2018 I decided it was time to call in the experts. I contacted my coach Andy at Mile27 and he set about getting me back on track and accountable with my training. Finally in June 2018 I for to run my ‘come-back’ race at the Kendall Mountain Run in Silverton, Colorado. It was amazing and you can read about it here.

With all the hiking and running that I managed to do in Colorado, I thought it was time to do a marathon. It would be a good test of my fitness and recovery leading into the multi-day trip coming up in late September, so I did it, I signed up for the BUMS marathon being held on 1 September and I had a blast.

I was one of 15 runners who met outside the Bavarian Bier Cafe in Manly on a beautiful winters day. We each made last minute trips to the bathroom and then I caught up with some running friends who I had not seen for a while. At 7.00am (on the dot) Jane signalled for us to start and we headed south along the harbour towards the trails. Brick & Dave were up front and in charge of ‘chalking’ the course, they would draw arrows onto the road/pavements at the intersections where we needed to turn. Danny Spencer was just behind them and then there was Jane, Peter, Ben and myself. My plan was to stay with Jane and Peter for as long as I could. My coach had told me to run 25mins then walk 5mins, which I’ll admit that I did not stick to. But I knew there would be some walking involved as there was quite a lot of trail and stairs on many sections of the course.

It was a beautiful day to be running next to the harbour and this course followed Sydney Harbour all the way to Watsons Bay. I had presumed it was mostly road, but it turns out the course was mostly trail with only a few sections of road. I love trail so this was great for me, but I had worn road shoes so was a little more cautious with any technical sections that we encountered.

Catching up with Jane and Peter, and hearing about their recent Oxfam run was fantastic. Ben was great company too, having never met him before we spent time talking about past races and what we were both training for.

We caught up to our friend Greg just before the Kirribilli Pub, he had started an hour earlier than us because he knew his pace would be slow and he didn’t want to hold everybody up. Plus it meant he could have celebratory drinks with us at the finish line. We downed a traditional quick beer (well… I had a coke) and we headed out the pub door and towards the Harbour Bridge.

The bridge was full of tourists and we walked a lot of it because it was too hard to try and run through the crowds. Once across we headed down towards The Rocks, thorough the markets, past the Opera House and through the Centennial Park.

We hit a few streets after this section and I started to do some walking like my coach had said because it was much flatter for the last half of the course. My legs felt strong, my lungs felt clear, and as I looked around to take in the stunning water views I started to wonder if I’d missed one of the chalk arrows keeping me on course.  I looked ahead to try and spot Jane and the crew who I’d been running with earlier, but they were nowhere to be seen.

I kept running and eventually I caught up to Jane, Peter and Ben again. This happened a few times, I’d stop to walk and then when I started to run I would catch up to them again. However about 3kms from the finish I really started to slow. My muscles were tightening up quite a lot and I decided not to push it and drop back to take it easy.

I couldn’t believe how lucky we were with the weather. It had poured with rain the day before the race, so much so that I had packed my light-weight wet weather gear in case of rain but ended up ditching it into the car before the start. Roger had kindly offered to get up early and drive me to the start in Manly, a very early morning for him (especially for a weekend) and I was very grateful. I had been texting him throughout the morning so he could check on my progress, as he was also my back-up plan if the body wasn’t co-operating and I needed to cut the run short. But that wasn’t going to happen, I felt great.

Eventually I hit Watsons Bay and made my way to the finish outside Watsons Bay Hotel where our mates were waiting patiently for everybody to finish. They cheered me in and we headed to the bar for some celebratory food and drinks. It had taken 5 hours and 48 minutes, and the best part was how good I felt. I wasn’t fast, but I had achieved my goal to run a marathon and finish in one piece. And getting to run it with such good mates was a bonus. Life is good.

I may have dozed off in the car on the way home too, ha ha

Escaping Winter: Part 4 – The build up to Hardrock

Continued from Part 3.

On Monday, after a good nights sleep, we had a hearty breakfast with scrambled eggs, cheese and prosciutto on toast with good coffee. We chatted to another runner who was heading out from Cunningham to see some of the course and we got to meet his trail dog too, she was very lively and seemed to be playing hide and seek.

We headed back to Silverton as we both had massages booked with a lady called Megan. She lives in a place called Lafayette near Boulder and had travelled here to help get runners ready for Hardrock. I was booked in for 10am and Roger headed off to start the laundry, fuel up and get ice for the esky. The massage was great, she worked out some really tough knots in my glutes, calves and quads, it was just what I needed.

Rog took my place on the table and I headed off to wait for the dryer with our laundry. I felt like I was floating. After doing the laundry and enjoying a Blueberry Smoothie I went back to the car to read my book and wait for Roger, I may have also bought a ‘Coloradical’ t-shirt and some bicycle-shaped earrings along the way.

I read my book in the car for a while until Rog came out and then we headed for lunch. We chilled out for most of the day chatting to other runners and headed up to Cunningham Gulch to camp for our last night in the van. We had Cheese Enchilada Ranchero (dehydrated) for dinner and it was actually quite tasty. We also saw the most amazing pink sunset over the hills as we drifted off to sleep.

Tuesday we had a bit of a sleep-in and when we got up we chatted to a group of runners who were doing the ‘soft rock’. Soft rock is when you do the Hardrock course but spread over 3-5 days, so a much slower pace. These guys had decided to do the double which meant they would run the course in one direction then turn around and run it back the other way, that way on their second lap they would get to see the runners during the race too.

Before going to sleep the previous night I had decided that I would run the section from Cunningham Gulch to Silverton, the section I would be pacing for Roger during the race. So I geared up and got myself ready to do the 9 mile (approx. 14km) trail section over Little Giant. The sun was shining and there were hardly any clouds in the sky, it was going to be a good day.

I waved goodbye to Roger and headed over the creek to start the trail. I wasn’t looking forward to having wet feet from the start but my Speedgoats and Injinji socks actually dried up pretty quickly. The first section was a long hike that got steeper and steeper up over Little Giant and I had great views back down towards Cunningham.

 

I kept climbing and it was so nice to be out in the mountains enjoying the sunshine, I didn’t see another soul until I dropped back down in the valley over the other side and saw a couple of ATV’s (All Terrain Vehicle) near an abandoned mine. There were old mines everywhere in this district and most trails were originally formed by the miners and settlers who lived in this area many, many years ago.

The trail went down a long jeep road for quite a distance and their were a few turns and bends that were not marked. Lucky I had borrowed Roger’s Garmin and he had the course loaded into it so I could make sure I didn’t get lost. I also had the ‘Trail Run Project’ App in my phone which also had the course on it, as back up for if the watch didn’t work. Roger had also warned me that there was a sign warning people about a Moose and her babies, they can be quite aggressive, so my strategy was to be loud so that  wouldn’t creep up in them and hopefully they would run away before I got near them. I’ll admit I was a little nervous doing this run by myself and maybe that’s why I ran it quite quickly, but I did relax and enjoy it very much.

It took me just under 3 hours to run this section which meant I arrived in Silverton just in time for lunch. I was quite pleased to have done it in that time because we had estimated about 4+ hours to complete. Maybe I was getting used to the altitude and my climbing was getting better, either way I’ll take it. My foot and knee had both been holding up well too so this made me very happy.

Roger had checked us into the Prospector Motel and I met him as I was walking down the main street towards the Coffee Bear. He was stoked with my time too and so we celebrated with ice cold Frappe’s. I headed for a shower and then we had lunch.

On the way back from lunch we noticed that they had started to put together the start/finish chute with flags and the famous ‘Hardrock’, so we headed over to take a look. I got a few photos and we met a lovely couple from New York, Britney and Ryan, Britney was doing the race for the first time too.

For dinner we went to Handlebars and both had (huge) steaks, the meal also came with soup and fries and the waitress was very impressed that we both finished our plates. And because we weren’t full enough we ducked across the street and finished the day with a Smedleys Ice Cream, delicious!

We walked back to the hotel the long way to burn off some of our meal and got an early night.

Wednesday is when the nerves started to kick in for Roger, as it was the first day of registration and the expo was open for business from midday. Larry, Andy and Roger were all in line to register as soon as it opened, then they had a few questions from the medical team, were given a spot tracker and finally had their photos taken in front of the Hardrock sign.

I got talking to a runner who had done the race before and his crew had made him an awesome t-shirt, check it out.

I spent a lot of time checking out the expo and bought some more clothes, caps and a Limited Edition Hardrock UD hydration pack, you can never have too many packs, am I right?

We all headed for lunch at the Pickel Barrel and Britney and Ryan joined us when they showed up a few minutes later. It was another really good meal. After lunch, Larnie and I went to the ‘Women of Hardrock’ talk that was put on by Trail Sisters and we had an interesting discussion about the difference between Male and Female entrants, prize monies, how to get more women involved and all things running. It was more of an open discussion and anyone could contribute, which was great because we heard a lot of different opinions from all around the world. We also ran into the race director Dale Garland, a lovely gentleman and had a quick chat to him as he ran around getting everything organised.

I walked back to the hotel with Larnie and she was headed for a nap, jet lag was taking its hold and she needed the rest. Roger and I headed to the (long) course briefing held in the school hall, which turned out to be a very detailed, google maps, street view of the entire course. It was run by James who we had met earlier on the course marking days, and it was very informative. Charlie (Head of the course crew) and a few other organisers/runners gave some great tips on the different sections of the trail.

We snuck out when they got to Cunningham as we both knew that section now and we headed for dinner at Golden Block Brewery with a good friend of Roger’s, Vincent from Hoka in Annecy and Jim Walmsley (recent winner and record holder of Western States). We also met Joe Grant as we were walking into the restaurant and chatted to him about his recent Nolan’s 14, plus he gave Rog some great tips on the Hardrock course. The pizza was great and we had a lot of laughs, then headed back to the hotel. Vincent and Jim were headed for a campsite out of town that apparently Jim and his crew stay at every year, their ‘Forest Fortress’.

On Thursday we managed to catch up with Mike Wardian for breakfast, a Hoka athlete who knew Roger well. We had coffee and burritos at our favourite Coffee Bear, and also chatted with Lucy Bartholomew and Anna Frost, both who happened to come past for coffee. Lucy was heading to Ecuador a few days after the race, and then back to Colorado for some running. Frosty had organised a group to do Soft Rock after the race and would also be working at Kroger’s canteen (Virginius Pass A.S.), one of the scariest checkpoints on the Hardrock course. Being surrounded by all these elite, super fast runners was inspiring and makes me want to train smarter and harder myself.

After breakfast we headed to the grocery store with Mike to get the final items for Roger’s drop bags and on the way back we dropped into Mike’s accommodation to meet his wife and kids, however his wife was catching up on some sleep. Instead we got to meet Jeff Browning who was staying in the same house, another elite who I am lucky to have met here on our trip. We chatted about the Tour de France which was on the tv and then ducked back to our hotel to get the drop bags ready.

Just before midday we headed over to hand in the drop bags and attend the runner’s briefing. The school hall was packed with runners and crew and all of the amazing people that help put together such a big event. It was such a surreal experience being there in that hall with so many accomplished runners, some who are known and some who are unknown. It was very inspirational and I left wanting to come back and do this race myself one day. Did I just say that? Shit.

We had dinner with Andy, Larnie and Larry At Natalia’s, most of us had pasta and I also had strawberry cheesecake for dessert. Back at the room Roger and I prepared all of his race gear and nutrition, and Jill arrived just before 8pm too. Jill is our friend from Boulder who we had convinced to come and crew with me, she had crewed for Beat at this race before and has run many ultra marathons herself so it was great to have her onboard.

And now we are off to sleep as the race starts at 6am tomorrow. I’ll be updating facebook with Roger’s progress whenever we have reception, so stay tuned.

Escaping Winter: Part 3 – The Needles, Utah

Continued from Part 2. I decided to make Utah into it’s own blog post because I took so many photos, and because it was such a special trip.

While on the road to Utah we encountered huge storms and there was a grand display of lightning in every direction. Here are some pictures I got with photos and videos of the storm.

As we drove into Utah the rain got heavier and heavier, but by the time we reached the National Forest we had gotten ahead of the storm, and the views were spectacular as we approached our destination.

A friend had recommended The Needles in Canyonland to us, as being slightly closer than Arches National Park but just as spectacular. We got to the Needles Outpost on the edge of the park and a friendly man called Kaleb greeted us and told us we could camp there for the night and use the bathroom/showers. We could see the storm getting closer and closer, so we took him up on the offer as the rain bucketed down.

Roger got the water boiling so we could have our (dehydrated) Rice Burrito Bowl, we added some dried bacon pieces and it was pretty tasty. The storm eventually passed and we were not only lucky enough to see a storm in the desert, but there was a beautiful rainbow that formed just over the rocks behind our campsite. It was magic.

As you can see we took a lot of photos, mostly because the colour of the sky kept changing with every minute that passed, but we both crashed after a long exhausting day.

We woke up early on Sunday to the sound of a thousand frogs who were lapping up the rain and swimming about in the puddles. Rog made delicious eggs on toast and good strong coffee, and I was glad my legs didn’t feel too sore after the race yesterday.

We packed up the camper and headed to Cave Spring Trail where we saw amazing rock formations, elaborate cactus plants and primitive cave paintings.

The next stop was Elephant Hill Trailhead which took us through more impressive rock formations and towards a breathtaking view of The Needles.

As we drove along the road we saw a sign for Pothole Point Trail so we stopped and did the 1km loop, which had some great views but was not as impressive as what we had previously seen.

We also stopped at the Big Spring Canyon Overlook and went for a short hike which gave us some more impressive views of The Needles. There is nothing like this back home and it was such a worthwhile trip.

Eventually we got back in the camper and headed to Monticello for lunch at the Peace Tree Cafe. We stopped at the Needles Outpost to pay for our campground, as their Eftpos machine had stopped working during the storm the evening before, and we met a young man working behind the counter who had a gorgeous dog called Kukido (Cookie Dough).

Then I drove us back to Silverton for dinner at The Pickle Barrel. After our bellies were full we headed up to Cunningham Gulch to camp for the night.

We met Ben and Levi who were also camping near us, Ben had a beautiful big white dog called Gandalf (the White) and we chatted to them both as the night sky rolled in and the temperature dropped. They were Hardrockers coming back for more with good stories and insight on the race, like everyone who is here to run or crew or volunteer again. There were thousands of stars shining down on us as we drifted off to sleep.

Stay tuned for Escaping Winter: Part 4 – The build up to Hardrock